Monday, 28 October 2019

Poetry Revisited: The Trees at Night by William Kerr

The Trees at Night

(from Georgian Poetry 1920-22: 1922)

Under vague silver moonlight
The trees are lovely and ghostly,
In the pale blue of the night
There are few stars to see.

The leaves are green still, but brown-blent:
They stir not, only known
By a poignant delicate scent
To the lonely moon blown.

The lonely lovely trees sigh
For summer spent and gone:
A few homing leaves drift by,
Poor souls bewildered and wan.

William Kerr (fl. 1922-1927)
English Georgian poet

Monday, 21 October 2019

Poetry Revisited: The Autumn Wind by Caroline Sheridan Norton

The Autumn Wind

(from The Dream and Other Poems: 1840)

Hush, moaning autumn wind! be still, be still!
Thy grieving voice forbiddeth hearts to rest;
We hear thee sweeping down the lonely hill,
And mournful thoughts crowd o'er the human breast.
Why wilt thou haunt us, with thy voice unkind,
Sadd'ning the earth? Hush, moaning autumn wind!

Toss not the branching trees so wildly high,
Filling the forest with thy dreary sound:
Without thy aid the hues of summer die,
And the sear leaves fall scatter'd to the ground.
Thou dost but hasten, needlessly unkind,
The winter's task, thou moaning autumn wind!

Caroline Sheridan Norton (1808-1877)
English social reformer and author

Friday, 18 October 2019

Bookish Déjà-Vu: The Man Who Searched for Love by Pitigrilli

Click on the index card to enlarge it!

Some people take life more seriously than others. The idealists among them will be determined to work hard to make the world a better place because they aren’t willing to simply put up with its being the way it is, especially when they feel that they have the skill, the power and the drive to change things. Put to the test of reality, however, such idealism will almost inevitably wear out before long unless it’s firmly based on a strong character, unwavering belief or/and the support of family and friends. In the Italian classic The Man Who Searched for Love by Pitigrilli, another one of my bookish déjà-vu, a judge in his mid-thirties readily resigns from his post in Paris of the 1920s because he is annoyed with having to administer law instead of justice. Having fallen in love with a circus artist, he joins her troupe as a clown…
Read my review »

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Back Reviews Reel: October 2016

Leafing back three years in my blogging calendar, there are two classical and two contemporary novels on my review list of October. I started with a less widely read work by the English recipient of the 1932 Nobel Prize in Literature, namely The Dark Flower by John Galsworthy, showing a sculptor of animals passionately in love three times in three decades. Then I moved on to the red-light district of modern-day Antwerp in Belgium with four Nigerian prostitutes stuck On Black Sisters’ Street by Chika Unigwe with no way out. In Montauk by Max Frisch I went back to the 1970s to join an ageing Swiss writer on a week-end trip to Long Island in the USA with his young lover. And finally, I travelled Victorian England and Italy with a mother who sacrifices herself for her daughter, the child prodigy and one of the The Devourers by Annie Vivanti.

Monday, 14 October 2019

Poetry Revisited: Sitting by the Fire by Henry Kendall

Sitting by the Fire

(from Poems and Songs: 1862)

Ah! the solace in the sitting,
          Sitting by the fire,
When the wind without is calling
And the fourfold clouds are falling,
With the rain-racks intermitting,
          Over slope and spire.
Ah! the solace in the sitting,
          Sitting by the fire.

Then, and then, a man may ponder,
          Sitting by the fire,
Over fair far days, and faces
Shining in sweet-coloured places
Ere the thunder broke asunder
          Life and dear Desire.
Thus, and thus, a man may ponder,
          Sitting by the fire.

Waifs of song pursue, perplex me,
          Sitting by the fire:
Just a note, and lo, the change then!
Like a child, I turn and range then,
Till a shadow starts to vex me –
          Passion's wasted pyre.
So do songs pursue, perplex me,
          Sitting by the fire.

Night by night – the old, old story –
          Sitting by the fire,
Night by night, the dead leaves grieve me:
Ah! the touch when youth shall leave me,
Like my fathers, shrunken, hoary,
          With the years that tire.
Night by night – that old, old story,
          Sitting by the fire.

Sing for slumber, sister Clara,
          Sitting by the fire.
I could hide my head and sleep now,
Far from those who laugh and weep now,
Like a trammelled, faint wayfarer,
          'Neath yon mountain-spire.
Sing for slumber, sister Clara,
          Sitting by the fire.

Henry Kendall (1839-1882)
Australian author and bush poet

Friday, 11 October 2019

Book Review: The Curse of Kim's Daughters by Pak Kyongni are people, even entire families, who get more than the usual share of misfortune in life. While some may simply call it bad luck, others will be convinced that in the world nothing ever happens without a reason because everything is interconnected. In fact, it can be very comforting to believe that God, the Universe, whatever is just and that sooner or later we all get what we deserve. First published in 1962, the historical novel The Curse of Kim's Daughters by Pak Kyongni (or Park Kyong-ni for the English edition that appeared in 2004) follows the karmic decline of a well-to-do family in a small Korean sea port during the first decades of the twentieth century. Their misfortune starts with a hot-tempered husband who drives his terrified wife into suicide, kills an innocent man and disappears, but it’s his son and his grand-daughters who eventually pay the price.

Monday, 7 October 2019

Poetry Revisited: Czend – Silence by Margit Kaffka


(Kaffka Margit könyveből: 1906)

Én nem tudok
A csendről, melybe száz forró titok
És jövendő viharok lelke ébred;
Hol nászát üli száz rejtett ígéret.
A csendről, melyre mennydörgés felel,
Idegzett húr most, oh most pattan el,
Vagy fölzengi a nagy harmóniát,
Az életet, az üdvöt, a halált,
Mindegy! Valami jönni, jönni fog!
– – Ily csendről nem tudok.

De ismerem
Hol bús töprengés ág-boga terem,
A csonka mult idétlen hordozóját,
Sok, sok magános, lomha alkonyórát,
Melyből a szótalan, közömbös árnyak
Vád nélkül, halkan a szívemre szállnak,
S a szívnek várni, – várni nincs joga, –
Úgy jő a holnap, ahogy jött a ma,
Míg percre perc születni kénytelen,
– – – E csöndet ismerem.


Kaffka Margit (1880-1918)
magyar író, költő, feminista és publicista


(from Magda Kaffka’s Book: 1906)

I know not
Of the silence in which hundred hot secrets
And future storms one’s soul awakens;
Where one embraces a hundred hidden promises.
From the silence to which the thunder answers,
A nervous string now, oh a string snapping away,
Or it wells up like the great harmony,
The Life, the salvation, the death,
All the same! Something to come, it will come!
– – Such silence I do not know.

But I know it
Where sad pondering brings forth its branch,
The broken silly carrier of the past,
Many, many lonely, sluggish twilight hours,
From which the wordless, indifferent shadows
Without accusation, quietly fly into my heart,
And the heart to wait, – there is no right to wait –
So will come the tomorrow as has come the today,
While it takes minutes and minutes to be born,
– – – This silence I know.


Margit Kaffka (1880-1918)
Hungarian writer, poet, feminist and publicist

Literal translation: Edith Lagraziana 2019 with help
from several dictionaries and grammar books

Friday, 4 October 2019

Book Review: Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson
For many people there comes a moment, when they look back on life and re-evaluate the choices that they made along the way. Often it’s an event that draws attention to how fragile and short a human life is – like the death of someone close – that inspires such contemplation of what they did or failed to do. The lucky ones will find that overall they missed nothing that really mattered and have little to complain about, while others may be weighed down by the memory of lost opportunities and abandoned dreams. The Englishwoman past sixty who starts the correspondence of Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson did all her life what needed to be done or what others expected of her. Now her best friend died and they never got round to making true their almost lifelong dream of seeing the Tollund Man in his museum in Denmark…